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NPPL Commander's Cup
Nov 30 - Dec 2, 2007
by Dawn Mills
Photography by Matt Holland
First Place Professional
- San Diego Dynasty
Qualcomm stadium in San Diego was once again the home to the National Professional Paintball League's final tournament of the year, Commander's Cup. For the first time since the start of the NPPL Super 7 tournament series in 2003, both the tournament winner and the annual series pro champions weren't so predictable. Two-thousand and seven marked the first year that Dynasty didn't win the league's opening tournament at Huntington Beach, and the boys in blue, who have been crowned series champions every year found themselves headed into San Diego in the second ranked seat, behind Edmonton Impact. Failing to make the cut out of the prelims in Kansas City knocked Dynasty out of the strong lead they had developed by finishing third in Huntington Beach, and first in Tampa and Boston.
To add more uncertainty to the event, Impact's series ranking would not be determined for certain until the tournament was underway, due to a debacle in Kansas City. The KC pro finals came down to Impact playing against the Los Angeles Ironmen in the best two out of three games. The match ended in a tie, which according to NPPL rules should have been resolved with one-on-one challenge games between players selected by the two teams (rule 27.5.) Tired and disheartened by calls disputed with the referees during the three games, both teams agreed not to take to the field, and simply share the first place position. Both teams were announced as winners, with a tied finish.
Of course things would not be as simple as that. teams, players and fans protested this finish, because a tied finish is not possible under the NPPL rules. Moreover, by both teams reaching an agreement not to take to the field, they had violated rule 23.07, part 2 which prohibits opposing teams from conspiring to determine the outcome of a game. Had rule 23.07 been enforced, the teams would be disqualified from the tournament and all points earned at the event would be forfeit. However, since Impact and the Ironmen were not attempting a deception to fix a game for some nefarious means, but simply trying to be done with the day, the game fixing rule was not invoked. Instead, it was later decided that the finish of the Kansas City finals would be postponed, until the start of the Commander's Cup. Thus Friday morning would see the one-on-one tiebreaker game that would determine not only the winner of Kansas City, but also how far down Impact would have to finish for Dynasty to hold on to their four year reign as the only team to ever attain the rank of NPPL Super 7 Series Pro Champions.
The skies opened up Friday, as they would through the weekend, lubricating the NPPL artificial turf with liberal quantities of water. The pro tie-breaker went to the Ironmen, giving them first place for the Kansas City tournament well after the fact, and ranking Edmonton Impact in second. Additionally, that locked in the pro series ranking points, which for the first time in the league's history, weren't solidified at the start of the season finale tournament.
For the pro teams, Edmonton Impact, was poised to hold the top spot, regardless of first or second place in Kansas City, the only difference made by the tie-breaker was the strength of their lead in the series race. Kansas City really threw the season rankings for a loop with a criss-cross of performance trend lines. The team that has always topped the Super 7 didn't even make the quarterfinals, though their wins at Tampa and Boston held them aloft in the number two spot.
With Impact holding a 6 point series lead, Dynasty's only shot at holding on to their unbroken chain of series championships would be not only to win the Commander's Cup, but make sure that Edmonton Impact finished in fourth place or lower. Any lower finish for Dynasty, or higher finish for Impact would see a new champion. Considering Impact's track record of finishing second, second, fifth, and second through the season, the odds looked good Edmonton's favor.
The battle for the top position in the series rankings was not the only struggle for the pro teams. At the end of the season, the bottom three pros lose their status, and are pushed down to semi-pro, to be replaced by the top three semi-pro teams the following season. Unlike the days of old when playing pro merely meant ponying up a higher entry fee to get on the field, today the rank must be earned.
Coming into the tournament, Miami Rage, Las Vegas LTZ and Sacramento XSV held the bottom three ranks, though the totals were so close and low that any one team could catch a break in San Diego and find themselves out of the danger zone.
Preliminary games ran through both days of Friday and Saturday with forty-five DIII teams, forty-three DII, twenty-two DI teams, twenty Semi Pro teams, and eighteen Pro teams. With prelims wrapping up, just a portion of the 148 teams, fifty-six in fact, would move on the next round of games to be played on Sunday.
In the Pro Group, San Diego Dynasty dropped a single game during prelims for the highest score of 694 points out of 800. Just behind them Edmonton Impact also suffered a dropped game, their last of the day. Ironmen, Los Angeles Infamous, St. Louis Avalanche, New England Hurricanes, Stockholm Joy Division and Sacramento Excessive also joined the top teams on Sunday.
Semi Pro took their 20 teams down to 8 for Sunday play, Avalanche Army taking the highest points scored with 615. Joining them were SF Design, A-Team, Arsenal Evolution, OC Bushwackers, Phoenix United, Impact and SA X-Factor with a 476 after two loses. S.D. Aftermath, the team who has ruled the Semi-Pro bracket in ranking points for 2007 missed the cut to the next round by 41 points, an upset for the team and their fans.
Division I teams whittled down their 22 teams to the top 8 advancing on with Nurv heading the days with 607 points after 2 loses. RNT Allstarz, Dynasty Entourage, Naughty by Nature, Stoned Assassins, Synergy, Crims Underground and Vicious would be with them on Sunday.
The top 16 teams out of the 43 teams in DII moved on with Tombstone taking top billing after prelims with the highest score of the day, heading into the Sunday games with a single lose and 700 points. Just five points behind them were Kolohe, then 2 more points saw 187cRew into the group. Heading off to Sunday were Arsenal Kidz, Red Devilz, Proving Grounds Factory, Drama, Predators, Performance xXx, Splat Kids, Legend, Asylum, Ground Control, NeX, Galvanize, and Method X with 497 points in the sixteenth place after three prelim loses.
Forty-five teams came to battle in the DIII bracket, but just 16 moved on. Kolohe Boyz took 690 points after 8 games, followed by Magnum, S.D. Tension, Enigma, Rockstar Factory Red, Xclusive, Velocity Wrecking Crew, ATR, Armageddon, Faction EVO, West Coast Korruption, Storm Riders, Camp Pendleton, Chattown Ballers, PB Warehouse Squadron Blue and HKN. Number two ranked team, Air Assault Factory faced a disappointment like S.D. Aftermath, and didn't make the cut into the games on Sunday by 3 points.
With the close of the prelims, the finish of the bottom 8 pro teams was done. Chicago Farside ended the tournament in ninth place. The Pittsburgh All Americans and Portland Naughty Dogs tied in points at 348, but tie-breaker criteria gave 10th place to the All-As. Jersey Authority finished twelfth, Montreal Image thirteenth, Pasadena Bad Company fourteenth, Jacksonville Raiders fifteenth, Las Vegas LTZ sixteenth, Oakland BLAST, the team that won Huntington Beach in seventeenth, and Miami Rage in eighteenth.
This also locked in the bottom three teams for the season championship race. Pasadena Bad Company, Las Vegas LTZ and Miami Rage all landed squarely on the chopping block facing demotion to semi-pro. Sacramento XSV, the team that finished the series in second place in 2006, made it past the San Diego prelims, guaranteeing that they would retain their pro status by at least 3 series points.
The Sweet 16 scores pitted the top DII and DIII teams with the lowest ranked teams after preliminaries wrapped up. In DII Tombstone took down Method with two wins, Kolohe took out Galvanize with a win, a loss and a win. 187 cRew defeated NeX in the same way. Arsenal Kidz took out Ground Control in the first two games and Red Devilz and Asylum traded games with the Devilz coming out ahead. Proving Grounds Factory and Legend fought two games, trading, but Proving Grounds won the day after a 1 on 1 tie breaker. Splat Kids sent Drama home after losing their first game, but came back strong for the last two. Predators took out Performance xXx after two solid wins.
The DIII teams played in the same fashion, top ranked Kolohe Boyz finished first out of the prelims but were sent home after battling 16th ranked HKN. Magnum and PB Warehouse Squadron Blue traded games, Magnum coming out the victor. S.D. Tension dropped to Chattown Ballers after a first game win. Enigma took out Camp Pendleton after two games. Rockstar Factory Red battled Storm Riders for the win, Xclusive beat out West Coast Korruption after a win and draw. Velocity Wrecking crew traded games with Faction EVO for the win and ATR and Armageddon fought for the win, ATR going home after a 1 on 1 tie breaker.
Moving into the Elite 8, the teams in the Professional bracket played another round of round robin, taking just the top 4 teams after 7 games into the semi-final round. Finishing on top with 5 wins was San Diego Dynasty with a 501 out of 700. Edmonton Impact went on with 426 points while St. Louis Avalanche had 416 and New England Hurricanes brought home the fourth team placement with 412 points.
Semi Pro teams battled with the top ranked facing off against eighth ranked following prelims. Avalanche Army lost to SA X-Factor after two loses. Impact took down SF Design after trading games. A-Team beat out Phoenix United with two wins and Arsenal Evolution and OC Bushwackers had a draw in their first game, a win to Arsenal in the second and a draw in the third giving Arsenal the chance to move on.
Division I's Nurv took out Vicious with two wins, RNT Allstarz dropped to Crims Underground and Dynasty Entourage traded games with Synergy but came out on top. Naughty by Nature drew with Stoned Assassins in the first game, but won the next two giving them a chance at the finals.
DII team Tombstone took down Splat Kids
after a win, a loss and a final win. Kolohe did the same thing with
Predators, the win going to Predators. 187 cRew beat out Proving
Grounds Factory after some game trading and joining them would be Arsenal
Kidz who took out the Red Devilz after two draws.
Semi-Final Pro games saw San Diego Dynasty trade games with the New England Hurricanes, with Dynasty winning two out of three games, sending them onto the round to battle for first or second place, giving the Hurricanes a chance at third or fourth. The other Pro grouping, St. Louis Avalanche and Edmonton Impact saw two draw games, but a win to Avalanche sent Edmonton to the losing bracket with Hurricanes and Avalanche to play against Dynasty.
Semi Pro semi-finals saw A-Team beat SA-X Factor after a loss, followed by two wins. Impact traded games with Arsenal Evolution and ended their third game with a draw. They played a 1-1 game, Impact gaining the advantage and seeing them to the winner bracket against A-Team.
Division I played Nurv against Crims Underground with a few games' trade, Crims heading on to the winner's bracket to be joined by Dynasty Entourage after their win over Naughty by Nature by a 1-1 tie breaking game.
Tombstone from Division II beat out Predators in a two game battle while Arsenal Kidz continued the trend, beating 187 cRew with two solid wins.
Division III teams wrapped up the semi final round with HKN taking down Enigma after trading games, then a draw and finally a 1-1 takedown, sending HKN on to the winner's finals. Rockstar Factory Red dropped their first game against Xclusive, but came back hard to win their spot against HKN in the finals.
Professional final games both started out with a draw to each bracket. In the second round of games, San Diego Dynasty beat St. Louis Avalanche while New England Hurricanes beat Edmonton Impact. In the third round of games, New England Hurricanes beat out Edmonton Impact for third place, giving Edmonton a fourth place finish and a loss to the series championship. The last game of the day to determine first place between San Diego Dynasty and St. Louis Avalanche finished with the boys in blue satisfying their fans and friends alike with the win in the finals as well as the series championship.
Semi-Pro teams Impact and A-Team fought over two games and a draw, the final game going to A-Team for the first place spot as well as the series championship. Impact took second place at San Diego. Third place went to Arsenal Evolution after a loss and two wins over SA-X Factor who took home 4th place.
Two wins put Dynasty Entourage in the winner's circle for the event as well as series championships over Crims Underground who took second place for DI. In third, despite a first game loss, Naughty by Nature came back strong in the following two games and put Nurv in fourth.
Division II finals saw a draw in the first match with Tombstone and Arsenal Kidz. The final two games both went to Arsenal Kidz, giving them a podium shot in first place, Tombstone in second. Third place went to Predators after a decisive two game win over 187 cRew who took fourth place. Despite the fourth place finish at San Diego, the year's hard work for 187 cRew paid off with the series championships going to them.
Rockstar Factory Red beat out HKN twice in a row to secure their top billing during the final match of the Division III race. After a win, a draw, a loss and a 1-1 win, Enigma took home third place with Xclusive in fourth. As in DII, this third division team, Xclusive, took home the series championships after performing well throughout the year.